Religious Programs in Prison

By · Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Although I have not participated in organized religious programs in prison, many prisoners find them soothing and therapeutic. Every prison where I have been held has had a room or rooms that were reserved for chapel services. They were nondenominational, as prisoners from every faith used the chapel rooms for worship services.

With staff budgets and resources being scarce, religious services were not always as elaborate as those from the community expected. Yet the prisons maintained a chapel library, and inmates could order religious study courses and artifacts to further their spiritual development. Generally, those libraries included both books and videos. Several monitors were available for inmates to watch services that family members could record and send into the prison through appropriate channels.

Staff members seemed more supportive of religious programs than they were of educational programs. Religious programs, for the most part, were not as threatening. Those who developed their minds, I suppose, were simultaneously developing tools that could challenge the dubious wisdom of “corrections.” Religious programs, on the other hand, encouraged participants to find peace within and serve God’s will. That was likely less threatening to the security of prison environments.

In my article My Spiritual Journey, I describe the steps I used to grow closer to God during the more than 21 years that I have served in prison so far. I’ve always felt God by my side, guiding me through these human warehouses, and I am grateful for the many blessings I’ve received. Yet I have never felt comfortable participating in organized religious services in prison. Many of my fellow prisoners, on the other hand, are exceedingly devout and active in leading other members of their faith.

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